This week we look at Jesus praying in the garden at Gethsemane. I found it interesting to discover what Gethsemane really means: do you know? I’ll let you know. I’ve also begun the process of using other people to read through and make sure that I’m not making any glaring mistakes. This week, my wife has helped me quite a bit with suggestions and editing. I hope and pray that God speaks to you through this study.
- And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.
There was probably more conversation while they were walking, but the last words we heard the disciples say as they left the upper room was that they would never run away nor deny Jesus. Then, they arrived at Gethsemane. Gethsemane comes from two words that mean oil press which suggests that Jesus chose a grove of olive trees as His final place on earth to pray without interruption. I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say that just as olive oil itself was used to anoint kings, perhaps Jesus chose this place as a way of getting a symbolic anointing for the mission He was on. Whatever the reason, Jesus knew that He had to pray to gain strength for the horrible journey that awaited Him.
- And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; 34. And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
As Jesus went to pray, He was feeling the weight of the world on His shoulders. He knew that His destination was the cross where He would bear the weight of the sins of the world. He knew that He would be suffering an agonizing death. He not only needed to pray Himself, He needed His closest friends to stay nearby and keep watch. As I’ve looked at what others have said about the meaning of “watch” here, there seem to be two opinions of what that means. The first is that they needed to watch Jesus to make sure He would be physically ok. The second is that they would keep watch to protect against interruptions. Whatever the case might have been, they had one job: to wait and keep watch over Jesus’s physical safety and privacy
35. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
There’s this “feel-good” belief running around some Christian circles that if we say our prayers the right way and make sure we add the words, “in Jesus’ name,” we can get God to answer anything we pray about the way we want Him to answer. The flaw in that premise is that when Jesus prayed in the garden. He asked for the Father to keep the crucifixion from happening, and it happened anyway. Jesus would no longer drink the cup of blessing on this earth (v 25) but the cup that lay ahead of Him was the cup of God’s wrath (Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 51:17) as would be seen on the cross. While it was possible that God could change the tide of events that had been set in place, we know that He didn’t. And while Jesus prayed for the upcoming agony not to happen, He made the most important statement possible about His prayer: “not what I will, but what thou wilt.” It’s a reminder for all of us that while we may express our desires to God in prayer, we should always seek God’s will for the answer.
- And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? 38. Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. 39. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.
I’m going to be honest with you here, I would have trouble staying awake for an hour if I were keeping watch while someone else was praying. I’d have trouble staying awake if I were praying for an hour. Apparently, that was not normally an area of concern, thus, Jesus’ exasperation with Peter, James, and John when they couldn’t stay awake for an hour. This time, Jesus admonished them not only to watch, but also to pray that they don’t enter into temptation. He highlighted a perpetual human weakness when He said that the spirit is ready, but the flesh is weak. The turn of the year has many excellent examples of that as people seek positive changes in their lives when they make ambitious resolutions – then, temptation rolls around in a way that makes it easy to break the resolutions. Too often, we give in to that temptation and break our resolution. The spirit was ready, but the flesh was weak. The disciples said that they would stay up and watch, but the physical demands of a body that’s been on the run suddenly becoming still overcame them, and they nodded off. After Jesus admonished them, He went back and prayed the same words. The agony was real as Jesus prepared for the cross. How great is the love of Jesus that He endured the agony before going to the cross as well as the incredible pain and agony on the cross for us?
40. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him. 41. And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.
When Jesus came back, they were sleeping again and they had no answer for Jesus about why they were sleeping, so Jesus went back to pray. When He came back one last time, He told them that it was a good time to rest, because the time had come for Judas (the betrayer) to turn Him over to sinners. He urged them to come face the betrayal so they would know what was going on. It is interesting that Jesus talked about being betrayed into the hands of sinners. That was the term that the religious leaders had for the everyday people: those who weren’t part of the religious elite. Even in His last moments on earth, Jesus sought to remind the disciples that all who went against God’s will were sinners, not just the common, everyday people.
- And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44. And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. 45. And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.
Even when Judas left the Last Supper early, the disciples apparently still didn’t understand that Judas was the one who would betray Jesus. I wonder if they finally realized Judas was the betrayer when they saw him with his mob army backing him up. I wonder if they were astonished as the events unfolded, as if all this were a surprise to them. Judas didn’t hesitate, though. He walked up to Jesus, called Him “Master,” and gave Him a customary greeting with a kiss. One of the theories about Judas betraying Jesus is that he did so hoping to force Jesus into revealing Himself as the Messiah. In other words, he was trying to force God’s hand. That doesn’t work in prayer or in action. Seeking to get God to do our will is never a winning idea. History knows Judas forever for this one thing, the betrayal of Jesus into the hands of sinners.
- And they laid their hands on him, and took him. 47. And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
The mob took Jesus into custody. Different accounts of this arrest share different details. In the account found in Matthew, we see Jesus rebuking the one with a sword, revealed to be Peter in the account in John. Luke tells us that Jesus restored the ear to the servant, while John notes the problems the attackers had when Jesus confronted them with His identity. Whatever the whole truth is, we know that a mob, not a real army, led by Judas came out to arrest Jesus. During that arrest, someone, presumably Peter, found one of the guys on the fringe of the mob and swung wildly with a sword and sliced an ear off of a servant, and Jesus wasn’t too happy about the whole situation. The end result is that Jesus was arrested, but not before He rebuked those who had come for Him.
- And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? 49. I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.
Jesus rebuked them for coming like a mob in the middle of the night. They were arresting Him like a common thief, as if He had been difficult to find. If they really wanted to find Him, they didn’t need all the subterfuge, He was visible around the temple while He taught the people. Their problem was that they were afraid of what the people would do if they arrested Him in front of them, so their cowardice led to this late night arrest. Still, while Jesus rebuked them, He realized that most importantly, this was all done for Scripture to be fulfilled.
50 And they all forsook him, and fled. 51. And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: 52. And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.
Do you remember reading about all those disciples who would never leave Jesus? (v. 31) Like I warned you last week, that promise didn’t last long. The disciples who had come with Jesus to the garden of Gethsemane took off as soon as He was arrested, afraid that they’d be swept up along with Him. Verses 51-52 tell the story of a young man who had thrown a linen cloth around himself to be out there with Jesus. When the trouble started, they grabbed him by the cloth, and he left the linen cloth in their hands and fled naked. It was a good thing for him that all these events happened at night. In the end, though, Jesus was alone as the mob brought Him to the trial that was awaiting Him before the Sanhedrin.